living in the round
by waaseyaa'sin christine sy
i am desperate for the sound of waa
the sound of circle and curve and round
desperate for living in meanings made by my relatives living in bays sheltered by pines, alongside living roaring rapids, living at the mouth of this river
i am desperate for the sound of waa as in reverberation and echo, tautology. not wah, as in fred or baby talk water. maybe, maybe swaddle
for the sound of waawaan, an egg. turtle or pichi. robin, spring blue. fish eggs
fish nests are ethereal rounds undulating in sun-warmed shallow waters along cedar-lined limestone lake shores where ambers yellows and greens reflect everything into themselves
saaswaan, a nest. giigoonh saaswaan, a fish nest. waawiyeyaa, it is round.
a ball for playing is bikwaakwad. maybe also med’cin rolled up between old hands for burning, making better; fibres pulled away from crooks and crannies in bark and burrows furled into a loose ball for making fire on a cold-to-the-bone, sopping wet day.
waanzh, a den.
did you know that makwa sleeps in the round? a shelter in the earth where roots dangle from a convex roof, decorating sleep and dreams, in the sound of circumferential circumference. waawaabiganoojiinh, a little mouse, round body, round ears. waawaabiganoojii waanzhens, a little round burrow for a little round being
and waawaashkeshi, curvy curve curve. antlers. a deer.
did you know that waawaakeshiwag leave concave dips in snow, concave dips melted by their bodies as they sleep and rest nestled up into themselves beside each other? baskets melted into a winter blanket covering a wow in the land sheltered with hardwoods, softwoods, shigob amiinawaa giizhigaatigoog. little pellets of miizii mark these ovals, too
do you know waaboose? rabbit?
i am desperate and did you know that squirrels run horizontal highways along the limbs of trees and dash purposefully vertical along trunks traverse open spaces with a jump teeter on the tips of everything eat freshly fallen snow? go build round homes with dead, crunchy leaves crumpled up balls of recycled paper one piece of electric blue crackly Rice Krispy Square wrapper and that they stuff these things in their mouths as they move about in the building of lives for their babies?
i imagine their mouths sound like waa
did you know they make their spherical homes in the curved corners of the very trees they travel and that these homes are called dreys?
i don’t know the shapes of the lips and the rhythms of the breathes my relatives made in reflecting their ideas to portray the word drey. maybe, wodi, asanago waanzh, jiigaatig—there, a black squirrel den, in the tree.
all this and the wigwaam, too. this sound must be, in part, a reference to how my relatives bent bows to frame their lives and love. bent through sleep and wake the same way they saw those trees were able to reach up bend out and stretch over round and down back to earth. an arch. a graceful arc-ing up towards the skies and humbling down towards the earth. a curve. neither a point nor a tipi.
i am desperate for all this living. all this living, in the round.
Note: After witnessing asanagoog (black squirrels) for the past several months make life in the trees that surround my den, i started to feel a poem percolating in my body. Around the same time, I was invited to read a poem during Nogojiwanong Peterborough’s recent ReFrame Festival. The invitation to read ahead of the film, “Al Purdy Was Here,” (Brian D. Johnson 2015) which explores the life of highly celebrated, broke, Canadian poet Al Purdy and the restoration of the A-frame house he and Eurithe (his wife) built from recycled materials, and the film itself, drew “living in the round” out. The poem is its’ own and would have emerged on it’s own however there was something tempting about the strange combination of my i) angstadmirationenvycuriosity for the Canadian poetry establishment and ii) recognition of the struggle, tension, and resolve realized in Al and Eurithe’s lives, that cajoled it into this world. I wanted this poem to honour it’s own source and being deeply and beautifully. I also wanted it to be in clear dialogue with the film and speak gently, with some rigor, to the audience about the places, peoples, and knowledges Canadian poetry, Canadian poetry celebration, and Canadian poets live. “living in the round” was presented during a two part preface to “Al Purdy Was Here”. Headed up by the screening of Prufrock Shadowrunner’s “Countdown” (Rob Viscardis 2015) with q & a, “living in the round” was followed up with a spoken word poetic response to one of Purdy’s poems performed by two members of the Peterborough Poetry Collective. chi miigwech Ziy Sah, for the invite and for doing the great work you do with the great big brain and heart that you do it with!